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Jos Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

Film

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The mob, the grog and the pretty frocks – this is one mega house party to which you’d hustle for an invite. Flashing paparazzi and teams of security staff underscore how important the attendants are at this weekend, which will see slander, lies and subterfuge entangled with wanting revenge and wishing to woo.

It’s all about transformation. There are proposals, a jilting at the altar, and remarkable recovery from death. What more could you want?

Don’t think this is an insignificant effort just because it’s a light Shakespearean comedy from writer-director Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Whedon’s Much Ado will be remembered for being the first movie to crack the classic in the American vernacular. The US actors speak the Bard’s comedic language naturally, not pseudo-pommy or pronouncing awkwardly as if they somehow don’t deserve the words. This version works.

The setting is contemporary and it is impeccable – the house (Whedon’s own Santa Monica home designed by his architect wife) – is a star in its own right. After directing The Avengers, Whedon invited over a bunch of his acting mates. They were used to his Shakepearean soirees; for some years his passion has been hosting literary readings on film sets. What they didn’t know was Whedon was going to make this long weekend a feature film, albeit a low-budget one.

There is a consistency of time, space and place. Whedon’s choice of shooting black and white 35mm film is inspired, resulting in a scintillating quality of light. His actors, too, zing. Nathan Fillion, as head-of-the-watch Dogberry, exemplifies the on-target characterisation. He is hilarious without being over-the-top (remember Michael Keaton in Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 version?).

But first and foremost, this is a comedy for youth which pairs first love with jaded, 30-something realisation that bachelor and spinsterhood need not endure. Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) are Shakespeare’s most famous “mature” lovers, and their sparring, given the poignant flashback-story, is delectable. The young Claudio (Fran Kranz) is believable for his ready jealousy and gullibility, and Hero (Jillian Morgese) is the sweetest young thing.

The traditional lyrics set to a modern lounge music soundtrack are definitely downloadable.

Don’t miss out – go secure your ticket now to this wild shindig.

 

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